“Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death
We must pit the mnemonic against Death itself. You can not adapt a life-system that does not acknowledge Death and the questions this knowledge brings up.
The mnemonic answers the question of how and why, in the face of inevitable death.
I used to live in Upstate New York, and on occasion would walk in old graveyards that predated the civil war. To see the names, dates, and inscriptions, was always a powerful experience. I suggest you get out the very old photos and contemplate the lives of one of your ancestors. You might go onto the internet and look at the photos of one person who was rich and famous and is now gone. Think about that life.
Think about your own.
Your Death, is something you need to take into consideration on a daily basis. You see, the beauty of Death is that it means you have nothing to lose. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar says of death: “Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear. Seeing that death, a necessary end, Will come when it will come. “
For me this so justifies being a Laughing Pirate.
We link the mnemonic with scenes from movies to gain emotional power. But considering your own assured death is another source of emotion, and realization, that can drive the mnemonic. Nothing more amazes me than that people, knowing they are going to die, act as if they were immortal. And this is part of the reason I call them, idiots, charlatans, and clowns.
Edgar Allen Poe gathers them all, those who have tried to shut Death out, for a party, where the Red Death was an unwanted guest. Every so often while they were dancing the clock would chime causing them to halt, and pass their hand over their brow in nervousness. Because with each chime of the clock they had to acknowledge that Death was unavoidable. But they refused to, as did another champion of literature.
When Tolstoy finally acknowledged his eventual death, he expressed his angst with the words of his character Ivan Ilych who says, “Can it be I have not lived as one ought? But how not so, when I’ve done everything as it should be done?” Of course, Tolstoy had always known he was going to die, we all do in an abstract way, but there came a time when he began to grasp it, and that nearly undid him. He refused to go hunting for fear he would turn his own weapon upon himself. In his memoir he asks, “Is there any meaning in my life that wouldn’t be destroyed by the death that inevitable awaits me?” I never ask that question.
I am much closer to Death than Tolstoy was when he was gripped by his existential crisis. And because of what I write to you in these pages, it bothers me not at all, other than what distress I might cause those I leave behind. It is true that when you first get a diagnosis of cancer or heart problems you have an “Oh shit!” reaction and race to Google to do research. But that is a short lived reaction for those of the mnemonic.
Let’s run through a typical death sentence using the mnemonic.
After a major, bungled operation at Stanford, my PSA begins to rapidly climb into the “Oh Shit!” realm. I objectify the problem and “see” it in the Arena. Then I go to Google and do research. I find a new experimental procedure for detecting metastatic prostate cancer offered at UCLA, I fly down have the test, and, “Yup!” it is spread to three locations. But I have journaled extensively using OneNote and Excel, and I have a plan of attack.
No Panic. No rat of doubt and regret eating in my guts.
I am a martial artist, so I have Purpose, formed by Discipline and guided by Value. My diagnosis doesn’t affect any of this.
And my identity is that of Ronin, so I live my life in constant awareness of Death. I very much enjoy Carlos Castaneda’s take on death expressed by his character Don Juan who says, “Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, ‘I haven’t touched you yet.”
And I constantly access the Void by using 1eye. This is the timeless realm beyond words or concepts wherein one can access the infinity from which they sprung, and in so doing find solace, if needed, and power and inspiration for the Laughing Pirate.
Laughing Pirate is maximum performance. Performing with Laughing Pirate means you do incredible things. You encounter “good luck,” and you are smiling no matter what you face.
Navigating between the hospitals and clinics of San Francisco, Sacramento, and Folsom California is certainly a journey into a Strange Land, and often is populated with Idiots, Charlatans, and Clowns.
It is easy to say I am always making, storing, and Seeking Beauty, for which I am most Grateful. But you must see that it is here that Tolstoy came to grief. He speaks through his character Ivan Ilyich who is living an average life, “most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible.” I contrast that with the famous Tears in rain monologue from Blade Runner. The android dying in the rain, says, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.” We will have much to say about that passage later.
You see, he had stored beauty, and his recall of it, in his dying moments, is what I call gratitude. He had far less problem with “meaning,” than did Tolstoy.
There are many who would consider being treated for cancer over and over again a hell. I promise you these thoughts and feeling have never crossed my mind. It is all part of the adventure wherein I have never been out of the fight; I fight still, and I will not fail.
The mnemonic has served me well. Actually, it has served me so well, and for so long, that it is a part of me, and I of it. You see the mnemonic is your actualization of meaning. Not with more words, no matter how clever, but in actuality. You may write a clever book about gravity, but define it in a few moments by dropping something. Thusly do we of the mnemonic define life. And so it becomes that there is no death.
You will never say, “Oh shit, I am dead.” For death is not an event in life.
Being on the sand, we always knew we were going to die, just not when. And this gives strength to our training, and frees us from identity issues.